A Strong Connection

Music and memory

Music. It has the power to connect us with memories of long ago. Melodies can delight us, sadden us. Music provides a sense of meaning and context.  It is a soundtrack for who we are, where we’ve come from, and what we’ve done. Listening to favorite songs can evoke vivid memories and can become a kind of life review, an important and common task in our later years.

The health benefits of music are many.  Music can improve sleep quality, enhance relaxation and exercise, and calm anxiety. Musical memory is notable in that it is stored differently in the brain than speech and is separate from other memory systems.  That means we can access it, even when other memory systems begin to fail.  If someone in your life is having memory issues, you have probably already discovered this amazing, special distinction.  Even though Mom may not remember the names of her loved ones, she still remembers the lyrics to all her favorite songs. Those musical memories are not as affected by dementia. Images of the brain done by MRI and PET scan show that the Music Memory Area (MMA) is it partly independent from other memory systems.  It shows minimal atrophy/shrinkage and minimal disruption of metabolism in Alzheimer’s patients even though it is has about the same level of amyloid deposition as other areas of the Alzheimer’s brain.

This week, Ardent Nurse Practitioner Karen Pearson shared these insights with The Senior Care Networking Group.  She encouraged listeners to create personalized playlists for themselves now, by reflecting on the pivotal times in life and identifying significant songs.  She encouraged those who care for others with memory issues to find music that resonates with their loved one in a personal way. Playing these personal favorites can have a beneficial outcome. “While those with dementia have been robbed of their ability to communicate, they still possess the ability to feel and connect. They may not remember what is said or what music was played, but they will be left with feelings of joy and comfort and love,” observes Karen. 

Music is a simple way to connect with those who are having difficulty with language.  If someone in your life has Alzheimer’s Disease or another type of dementia, it can be an important part of the care plan.  Music, especially personalized choices of songs, may even help reduce agitation and anxiety, increase lucidity, and enable your loved one to communicate with you more clearly for a short period.

For more information and other ideas of how to care for your loved one, please call us at 469-293-1515.

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